Recognizing Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to improve Aboriginal child welfare services and programming in B.C., Grand Chief Edward John has been appointed as senior advisor on Aboriginal child welfare to the Minister of Children and Family Development.
Working with Aboriginal leaders, Grand Chief John will help more Aboriginal children and youth secure a safe, caring, permanent family outside of government care.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has prioritized adoptions and other forms of permanency for children who are in long-term care – particularly Aboriginal children, given their over-representation within the child welfare system. The role of the senior advisor will be to assist in developing stronger permanency plans that will lead to greater success finding forever families through adoption, guardianship or other options that may be more appropriate in First Nations communities.
Leaning on his considerable legal background and expertise, Grand Chief John will also consider current legal and policy frameworks and provide advice to improve support for families to raise their children in their community or find alternative options in those communities for children currently in government care.
Consistent with direction emerging from a July 2015 report from a council of Canada’s Premiers, the senior advisor will also work with the minister and deputy minister to develop plans, specific to B.C., to engage:
- First Nations and Aboriginal leaders in discussions to help the Province reduce the number of Aboriginal children in care;
- With the federal government in meaningful work to enhance prevention and intervention work as well as address ‘root causes,’ as discussed in the report.
There may also be opportunities for the senior advisor to work with the minister and deputy minister on projects related to early childhood development.
Monthly reports will be provided to the minister to inform of progress, identify barriers and strategies to address them. The senior advisor will also submit a final report summarizing activities relating to permanency planning, addressing items in the Council of the Federation report and any activity relating to early childhood development.
The appointment is for a six-month term, ending March 31, 2016.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“One in seven Aboriginal children in the province will be in government care at some point during his or her childhood – both the Premier and I know that’s not okay. We need to better support those young people and I am confident Grand Chief John will help us find more permanent homes, loving families and lasting cultural connections.”
- A permanent connection to a significant person or persons gives children the stability and continuity they need to develop into healthy, secure adults.
- MCFD works to achieve permanency by preserving, wherever possible, kinship ties and a child or youth’s attachment to extended family. For Aboriginal children and youth, these connections include permanent ties to their Aboriginal community to promote cultural continuity.
- When permanency is being planned for Aboriginal children or youth, the child or youth’s Aboriginal community must be involved. The priority is always for an Aboriginal child or youth to be placed with family, extended family or clan, or a family that is part of the same community or nation.
- Permanency planning is an approach used to describe a number of services and programs delivered by social workers in all areas of child welfare practice with the goal of securing a safe, caring, legally recognized and continuous family outside of government or Delegated Aboriginal Agency care for children and youth who are either at risk of being removed from their families or who are in care.
- The most recent Canadian National Household Survey indicates that 48% of 30,000 children and youth in foster care across Canada are Aboriginal (First Nation, Métis & Inuit), even though Aboriginal peoples account for only 4.3% of the Canadian population.
- In British Columbia, the Aboriginal child population makes up 8% of the total child population, yet more than 55% of children living out of their parental home in the province are Aboriginal.
- The total number of Aboriginal children in care has been relatively stable since 2001, but the proportion has increased as the Province has been successful in reducing the number of non-Aboriginal children in care.
- In August 2014, Canada’s Premiers directed provinces and territories to work together on solutions to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in child welfare systems. A report was provided to Premiers at the Council of the Federation (COF) in July 2015: http://www.canadaspremiers.ca/phocadownload/publications/aboriginal_children_in_care_report_july2015.pdf
Council of the Federation: http://www.canadaspremiers.ca/en/